Sunday, April 03, 2011
It just made suckers of the audience
Over the weekend I visited the London Imax to see the latest Zack Snyder film Sucker Punch. I have enjoyed his earlier films, such as 300 and Watchmen, which were wonderful realizations of famous comic books. Sucker Punch however was based on Snyder’s own story and even before I had taken my seat in the cinema I knew the reviews hadn’t been good. Many had attacked the film for its ludicrous plot and lack of characterization. I had taken this with a pinch of salt as the film looked as if it would be an action spectacular which would sell itself on its spectacle whilst making no apologies for its lack of good storytelling. Ultimately I was right, but I wasn’t satisfied.
There are many problems with Sucker Punch. Firstly there is the issue of gender politics. The girls that make up the main characters are vulnerable (and questionably insane but that link is never proven or disproven, aside from the fact they have been placed in a mental institution) and yet are dressed up in outrageously titillating cosplay-cum-stipper outfits. I could understand that if the imaginary scenes were the product of the male mind (word of warning to any girls reading, that is effectively what this film is giving you a glimpse into, at its most simplistic), but the fact that Snyder is trying to say that this is the way that the women in this film want to see themselves is patronizing beyond belief. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the men in the film are so two dimensionally monstrous and simplistically perverted that it just made me want to forcefully extract my Y chromosomes in a fit of guilt and blood. I don’t know what kind of a point Zack Snyder was trying to make about women in this gaudy nightmarish world of male fantasy gone awry, but he is certainly not selling the idea of the women being empowered. Especially not with stripper names like Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Blondie and Rocket, which they seem to have been assigned with by the drooling Snyder, as he mentally pleasured himself with red-faced, wheezing glee.
Essentially this is a Zack Snyder snuff film. It’s pornographic in the way it holds the audiences gaze and all without a single private part or nipple appearing in its run time. Every action scene is peppered with excess and many shots seems to scream at you: “TITS! TITS! TITS! LOOK AT THOSE TITS! PHWOAR! IS THAT A SCHOOLGIRL OUTFIT?! WOW YOU CAN SEE HER PANTIES IN THAT BIT!” Amongst the sexploitation you also get several other boy-like fantasies like: samurai, robots, clockwork zombie Nazis and dragons, thrown in for good measure. Zack Snyder has basically put on screen a teenage boy’s fantasy, or at the very least his own.
I know it’s slightly unfair to judge a film that trades so heavily on its lack of plot for its action. I could just about handle that, but when a high concept element is used so seriously as a framing device for the action it’s hard not to be irritated by a plot that is as ham-fisted as Sucker Punch’s. The film basically follows the plot to the average Rugrats episode, although with the babies replaced with sexy mental asylum inmates. The same dives into imagination are all there to see and the links back to the real world, to show how the protagonist imaginations sync to the reality of their actions. Or at least it would if the plot wasn’t lost in an Inception-like dream within a dream reality for 90 per cent of the film. The final insult however, is that there is quite a large (and fairly predictable) twist near the end of the film, which makes much of what we’ve seen largely pointless.
Whilst the action is spectacular to behold and is at times very entertaining, it does also tend to become samey to the point boring. For a film, so heavily geared towards action, to produce boring action at the expense of well-formed characters and a decent plot is utterly unforgivable. The scenes don’t build up gradually to a satisfying level. Instead they just blow their load at once and don’t stop to wipe up the mess.
The only saving grace of Sucker Punch is a quite frankly epic soundtrack featuring covers and remixes of great songs like White Rabbit, Sweet Dreams, We Will Rock You and Army of Me. This actually managed to make the film seem impressive, if only for fleeting moments.
Whilst Sucker Punch had me bedazzled by samurai robots and epic sword/gunfights it also had me grinding my teeth with rage at the audacity of the plot, the repetitive nature of the action, its utterly sexist premise and the pseudo philosophical bullshit being quoted during the fantasy scenes. If for two minutes, Zack Snyder had spent a little less time calculating a perfect storm of OTT effects and optimizing sexy outfits and worked on producing a better all-round experience then perhaps Sucker Punch may have fared better. Ultimately though, it is a humungous turd of a film with a gleaming CGI effect, cosplay outfitted sheen.
2 out of 5